Anyone who has seriously tried to study the real (i.e. international consensus) history of Stepan Bandera and the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists knows the kind of reaction one gets from Bandera fans when you question their hero. First you’ll be accused of being a member of the vast Russian conspiracy that spans decades and stretched its tentacles into the most unlikely organizations (such as the Cold War-era CIA). If not that, you’ll be accused of working for the other evil empire seeking to keep Ukraine down- Poland. Yes, Poland, whose Second Republic obviously joined in the Soviet’s anti-OUN propaganda campaign even though both nations appeared to be bitter enemies. Poland, whose post-1989 state also apparently insists on fabricating a defamatory narrative of the heroic Bandera and the UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army). Occasionally, less PR-savvy OUN fanboys will accuse you of being one of those other “conspirators” who have allegedly long sought to oppress Ukraine and malign their heroes like Bandera and Shukhevych.
As for myself, I tend to get the Polish accusation a lot, and to be fair my “Ukrainian” heritage may just as well be Polish or part Polish given my fuzzy family history on that side. Of course while I condemn the UPA’s deliberate attempted extermination of Polish people in Volyn during the war, this has nothing to do with my heritage. Nor do I approve of Poland’s interwar policies toward Ukrainians as the typical Ukrainian nationalist whataboutist argument goes. Fortunately for them, Poland’s new right-wing government has given us a perfect example of a state trying to rewrite history using the force of law, showing Ukraine exactly what not to do.
The media has been somewhat captivated by the disturbing actions of Poland’s ruling “Law and Justice” party for some time now, but this mess started when a Holocaust expert was threatened with having a state award revoked because his work pointed out the Polish complicity in some anti-Jewish massacres that occurred under Nazi occupation. As such, he’s been accused of violating laws that prohibit “defamation of Poland.” Apparently facts and accountability don’t matter.
If only that were the end of the matter. The new right-wing government is introducing a law that would make it a criminal offense to imply that Poland had anything to do with Nazi crimes, including those committed on its own territory. In this sense the law is very similar to that introduced in Ukraine, which makes it illegal to “defame” fighters for Ukrainian independence. While such a law could theoretically make it illegal to defame leftists like Hrushevsky or even Marxist revolutionaries like Lesya Ukrainka, it’s perfectly obvious that the legislation was designed to defend the OUN and the UPA.
As in the case with the Ukrainian law, passed nearly unanimously by its “pro-European” government, the Polish law seems unconcerned with actual historical facts. I’m terribly sorry, but Poles did sometimes collaborate with Germans in the commission of various crimes, and the Polish government collaborated with Nazi Germany in giving away Czechoslovakia to the latter, eventually taking a piece of the country as a reward. Interestingly enough, though that particular episode occurred while Poland and Nazi Germany had a non-aggression pact, we do not hear about the two countries being “allies” who carved up Czechoslovakia as we do in the case of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. But I digress.
Unfortunately whether it is Russia, Ukraine, or Poland, we Slavs often have an infantile worldview where we refuse to take responsibility for the actions of our often manufactured “heroes.” Ukraine is probably the strangest case, if only because Bandera and the OUN didn’t really represent Ukraine or Ukrainian people, regardless of their claims to the contrary. Rarely do these national cheerleaders realize that virtually every country in Europe contributed to the Holocaust and the rise of Nazi Germany in one way or another. America refused entry to thousands of Jewish refugees. American companies conducted lucrative trade with Nazi Germany, some of which helped build the German war machine. Britain and France enabled Germany and Italy to intervene in the Spanish Civil War so as to crush the legally elected Republican government. Later Britain handed Hitler Czechoslovakia on a silver platter and then tried to save face by making a half-hearted guarantee to Poland that they never intended to actually make good on. And of course the Soviet Union traded with Nazi Germany during the days of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, supplying it with grain, oil, and other resources necessary to run its war machine in the early years of the conflict.
If we go deeper than the state level, we see that virtually every European nation had people who collaborated for various reasons. The worst, of course, were ideological collaborators who supported fascist ideals. Others did so out of fear. Acknowledging this doesn’t put the nation in question on par with Nazi Germany.
Poland’s Law and Justice Party is engaging in that Slavic infantilism, whereby “national” values and childish fairy tale narratives of national history replace real policy in times of crisis. It is no different from what we see with “patriotism” in Russia and Ukraine- politicians inventing heroes and a sanitized version of the nation’s history while they rob and run their country into the ground.
So there, “patriots of Ukraine”, you can rest assured that I don’t work for Polish intelligence, which of course is but a branch of the great Russian conspiracy to defame Ukraine’s “heroes.”